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Utah delegation wants to meet with Biden before he acts on Bears Ears, Grand Staircase

They also want the Interior secretary’s report on the national monuments.

FILE - In this May 8, 2017, file photo, is Arch Canyon within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. President Joe Biden said Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, he plans to review the Trump administration's downsizing of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in southern Utah. Bears Ears National Monument is on lands considered sacred to Native Americans who joined environmental groups in suing when the boundaries were redrawn in 2017. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Utah’s members of Congress have requested a meeting with President Joe Biden before he takes any action to enlarge Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

The six Republicans sent the letter Wednesday reacting to news that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently delivered her recommendations to the president. Utah’s federal lawmakers want that report released to Congress.

“Our delegation, tribal governments, local partners, and department officials have worked in good faith to share and listen to differing viewpoints on this issue,” the letter reads. “In that same spirit, we request you meet with us before making a final decision and publicly release the secretary’s report recommendations.”

Utah is represented by Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney and House Reps. Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Burgess Owens and Blake Moore. All six Republicans signed the letter.

Then-President Donald Trump greatly reduced the size of these two monuments. Biden pledged to restore them during his campaign. He can do so unilaterally under the Antiquities Act.

Haaland visited Utah in April, meeting with federal lawmakers, local officials, tribal leaders and others. Utah’s lawmakers have thanked Haaland for the time she invested and wrote in their letter, “We also appreciate the continued dialogue between the department and our staff.”

They want to see Congress pass a bill that cements the boundaries for the monument and details how the lands can be used. They argue that, without that, the national monuments may be subject to changes after each presidential election.

“It is past time to end the political back-and-forth that the communities in our state have been subjected to for more than 25 years,” Utah’s federal lawmakers wrote, “and you have a historic opportunity to do so by working with Congress.”

Haaland didn’t announce that she submitted her recommendations. Rather, it was disclosed in two legal filings in the lawsuits that tribes and other groups filed after Trump shrunk the monuments by 2 million acres.

Then-President Barack Obama created Bears Ears in 2016 at the request of five tribes with cultural connections to the land.

It is unclear when Biden may make a decision on the monuments. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has said Utah is likely to sue the administration if the president expands either monument.

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